Remarks by President Jacob Zuma, to South African Ambassadors and High Commissioners stationed abroad, on the occasion of the 2014 Heads of Mission Conference, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria, 31 August 2014
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane;
Honourable Deputy Ministers Ms Nomaindiya Mfeketo and Mr Luwellyn Landers;
The Director-General, Ambassador Jerry Matjila;
High Commissioners and Ambassadors,
I am happy to join you as you conclude the important Heads of Mission conference.
I believe that everyone was given the opportunity to participate and to share ideas and views that will enrich our work, and build on what we have to achieve in our foreign policy mandate.
The experiences, knowledge and outcomes of this conference should enhance and support the work of respective missions.
I have been assured that Ministers who made presentations last week have clearly outlined the mandate of the fifth administration.
Let me reconfirm that the economy is the apex priority for our country over the next five years. We must put all our efforts into promoting a positive environment for economic growth and development if we are to break the back of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
We have set a growth target of five percent by 2019. Such a target would enable us to get more South Africans employed. It is not an easy target to meet, given the global economic climate but as government, business, labour and society in general we need to use all the expertise and resources at our disposal to meet this goal. We may also need to change our attitudes.
We need to adopt a more positive and optimistic attitude because nothing is impossible if we work together, putting our country first.
We intend to meet business soon to discuss this matter. The last meeting earlier this month was postponed at the request of business.
Other than the economy, we also remain committed to make a difference in other priorities such as education, health, the fight against crime and corruption, rural development and land reform. You will need to continue promoting partnerships in these areas.
We have every reason to be optimistic about the future of our country, given the successes scored in only a short space of time.
We should continue telling our good story of success. In only twenty years we have moved from being a pariah in the world to a key player that is recognised and respected.
We have consolidated democracy and begun to build a new society based on a progressive Constitution that promotes human rights, equality and justice for all.
We have made great strides to improve the quality of life and to create better living conditions for millions of our people.
This work is not yet completed which is why we still see unhappy communities in some parts of the country. Each day, we try to reach another community without water, electricity, decent shelter, decent schools and so forth.
We pride ourselves on being a government that is concerned about ensuring a better life for all our people especially the poor and workers.
Successive ANC governments will continue to strive until every citizen has an improved quality of life. That has been our mission since 1912.
We are happy that millions of our people recognise the progress made by this country. This was evident in the results of the elections in May where people clearly indicated appreciation of progress made and voted for more meaningful change in their lives.
Given that the economy is an apex priority, it follows that our heads of mission should prepare themselves for vigorous marketing and trade promotion over the next five years.
We want to open more opportunities abroad for our goods and services and also want to attract more investment towards our country in the next five years.
Missions should gear themselves to support the economic cluster and our business community in opening up opportunities for engagement.
The recent trends have demonstrated that the global economy is still recovering from the 2008/09 recession. Because our country’s economy is inextricably linked to the global economy, we too were affected but did manage to overcome some hurdles.
The fiscal position of South Africa remains sound even though there are low levels of investment.
Given all the global and national economic complexities, we need you to work harder as heads of missions.
Our Missions are our widest footprint abroad.
As Heads of Mission your role is to ensure that South Africa becomes a preferred destination for any prospective tourist and also for business.
You need to support all initiatives to showcase South Africa abroad, and seek business for the country.
Our Heads of Missions will need to work closely with other government departments, business and other players to build a strong and competitive identity for South Africa internationally.
Through you, potential investors should trust South Africa as a business destination and a business partner.
We want more markets for South African goods abroad and we want more investments to flow towards South Africa. We want you to play your role in this regard.
The Department of Trade and Industry has among its goals this year the creation of 15 government to government trade platforms, to hold 19 Trade and Outward Investment Missions, facilitate the signing of 11 Enabling Agreements.
The Department also wants to address market access barriers in some countries in the continent and provide training on Standards and Quality Assurance in some countries on the continent.
We have also through the DTI continued to explore trade and investment opportunities within BRICS.
We also made good progress in Washington DC early this month in lobbying for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) extension and continued inclusion of South Africa after 2015.
We used the opportunity of attending the US Africa Leaders’ Summit to engage the US government and the US Congress in this regard.
We continue to promote trade relations with the European Union to support the regional development agenda.
Great progress has also been made to update and modernise our investment protection framework, notably through the introduction of the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill last year.
You will need to support this ongoing work so that we yield positive results for the country.
What happens domestically may impact on your work.
We have established an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Information and Publicity led by the Minister in the Presidency Mr Jeff Radebe, in order to position the country better abroad while also communicating more effectively domestically.
This Committee will work with other departments to promote strategic communication campaigns to keep South Africans informed and also to promote economic and commercial diplomacy.
In the June 2014 State of the Nation Address we looked at some key challenges such as the need for energy security to promote economic growth.
Our response to energy security is a strong push for energy mix that includes nuclear, solar, shale gas, wind and coal. We will be looking for partnerships for this strategic project and some of your missions will be called upon to provide support.
You would also be aware that youth development remains one of our key focus areas.
We will continue to invest in achieving better education and skills development. We will welcome all the skills development opportunities for our youth that you will source in your countries of accreditation.
Many young people leave South Africa to study abroad each year through government facilitation. We want more opportunities with these young people returning to serve their country with the skills they will have obtained.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Regardless of where you are currently stationed, the absence of peace and stability in the world, especially Africa and the Middle East is a source of concern.
The peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue is the only way to realise lasting peace.
We must find a way to silence the guns throughout Africa. The people of the DRC, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia and parts of North Africa and Nigeria deserve to live in peace.
We must also as Africa work closely together to fight the consequences of globalisation such as international terrorism, transnational crime and cyber terrorism which remain a serious threat.
We have achieved a lot for a 20 year old democracy. However, as you are all aware, a lot more still needs to be done for us to fully enjoy the fruits of our toil and sweat.
In the next five years, as our diplomats, there are a number of tasks that must be executed effectively and efficiently.
You have to promote the National Development Plan Vision for 2030.
Every Mission should reflect on the June 2014 State of the Nation Address in relation to the focus areas on the Medium Term Strategic Framework 2014 to 2019.
Every mission must have programmes in place to promote the five priorities and to build partnerships.
We must continue to promote the African Agenda. It remains the anchor of our foreign policy. We should thus continue to work closely in support of the African Union, and its agencies to build a credible, prosperous and peaceful Africa.
In addition, every mission should be familiar with the SADC integration and free trade Agenda and our expected role in the developmental processes in our region.
As said earlier, each mission should have active programmes to promote trade and investments.
We want more markets for our goods and services and want more investments to come to South Africa in the next five years.
In executing your tasks, always remember that our country’s foreign policy is premised upon decades of the struggle of our people for freedom and liberation from the vestiges of colonialism, subjugation and racial oppression.
Our foreign policy finds expression in the founding principles of the ANC since its inception in 1912, Pan-Africanism and international solidarity.
Our foreign policy is also premised on the Freedom Charter of 1955. It stated a follows;
There Shall be Peace and Friendship!
South Africa shall be a fully independent state which respects the rights and sovereignty of all nations;
South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war;
Peace and friendship amongst all our people shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities and status of all;
The people of the protectorates Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and Swaziland shall be free to decide for themselves their own future;
The right of all peoples of Africa to independence and self-government shall be recognised, and shall be the basis of close co-operation’’.
Our foreign policy is also informed by what we were taught by this country’s foremost diplomat, the late ANC President Isithwalandwe Oliver Reginald Tambo.
He traversed the world promoting South Africa and to this date we are benefitting from his selfless determination and hard work.
He also gave us direction for our foreign policy. Let us remember President Tambo’s words at the First Congress of the Angolan ruling party, the MPLA in Luanda in 1977.
He stated: “We seek to live in peace with our neighbours and the peoples of the world in conditions of equality, mutual respect and equal advantage”.
In 1991 in his Presidential address to the ANC national conference in Durban, the first conference after the unbanning of the ANC, President Tambo again provided direction on our foreign policy;
He said; “As in the past, our leadership should be exercised both here and abroad. This becomes even more important given the changing face of the international community.
“We must therefore refocus international attention on the need of continued support, including support we shall need in order to reconstruct our country and the region in the post-apartheid era’’.
It is therefore with good reason that the headquarters of the department managing the country’s international relations is named after OR Tambo.
As Oliver Tambo month approaches in October, it would be helpful if our missions make plans to celebrate this national hero each year. He sacrificed life’s comforts so that we could live at peace in a free democracy.
You should draw inspiration from OR’s international work, and let it inspire you to do better each day, to move us towards a more prosperous South Africa.
Let us act, give real value and meaningful action in support of the National Development Plan.
Let us work harder towards the goal of a five percent economic growth target by 2019, and towards more jobs, better education, health and other outcomes.
We wish you all the best as you execute your important mandate as representatives of our beautiful, successful country.
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency
31 August 2014